An Election Budget

Standing in for an ailing Arun Jaitley, finance minister Piyush Goyal presented the interim Budget that was a thinly-disguised ‘election-year’ offering to the country, with every segment of the NDA’s prospective votebank being served – generously, and in some cases boldly – with sops. The Budget had benefits for middle and lower income group families; farmers and labourers; the salaried and the senior; women and children; the Armed forces; MSMEs and everyone else the NDA may count on to bring it back to power in May.

The biggest largesse, too, came as no surprise, with a doubling of the Income tax exemption limit for salaried employees to Rs.5 lakh; the announcement of an annual income support of Rs.6,000 for small farmers; and contributory pension for labourers in the unorganised sector. In his 100-minute speech, Goyal also announced raising the Standard Deduction for the salaried class and pensioners from Rs.40,000 to Rs.50,000 and proposed exemption from tax on notional rent on second self-occupied homes. In a big relief to pensioners and senior citizens, he also raised the threshold for TDS on interest received on bank deposits from Rs.10,000 to Rs.40,000, and TDS on rent from Rs.180,000 to Rs.240,000.

The tax giveaways involve a revenue sacrifice of Rs.23,100 crore a year benefiting more than three crore salary earners and pensioners -- Rs.18,400 crore on account of raised exemption limits and other changes and Rs.4,700 crore on account of raising the standard deduction.

Following BJP’s defeat in the Hindi heartland states in December on perceived stress in agriculture and informal sectors, the Budget came out with a direct income support of Rs.6,000 per annum for small farmers with a land-holding size of up to two hectares, which would be transferred directly into their bank accounts. The scheme, which would be funded completely by the Centre, will allegedly benefit 12 crore farmer families, Goyal said, amid cheers from the ruling benches. For the demonetisation-hit unorganised sector, Goyal announced a pension scheme providing for Rs.3,000 per month to workers on attaining 60 years – a move, he said, would benefit some 10 crore members of the unorganised labour force.

India to become $5 trillion economy in next 5 years; aim of hitting $10-trillion mark in 8 years

Fiscal deficit pegged at 3.4% of GDP for 2019-20; target of 3% to be achieved by 2020-21 Total expenditure to rise by 13% to Rs.27.84 lakh crore in FY20

Taxpayers with annual income up to Rs 5 lakh to get full tax rebate

Those with gross income up to Rs 6.5 lakh will not need to pay tax if they make investments

Within 2 years, tax assessment will be done electronically.

I-T returns to be processed in 24 hours

Custom duty on 36 capital goods abolished

Standard tax deduction for salaried persons up from Rs.40,000 to Rs.50,000

TDS threshold on rental income raised from Rs.1.8 lakh to Rs.2.4 lakh

Tax exemption period on notional rent on unsold inventories extended to 2 years from 1 year

Tax-free gratuity limit raised from Rs.10 lakh to Rs.20 lakh

TDS threshold raised from Rs.10,000 to Rs.40,000 on interest earned on bank/post office deposits

Tax benefits for affordable housing extended till March 31, 2020

12 crore small, marginal farmers to be provided assured yearly income of Rs.6,000 under PM-KISAN scheme. 2% interest subvention for farmers pursuing animal husbandry. 2% interest subvention for farmers affected by natural calamities and additional 3% interest subvention for timely payment. 1 lakh digital villages in next 5 years

26 weeks of maternity leave for women

Rs.3,000 per month pension for 10 crore unorganised sector workers

Defence Budget to cross Rs.3,00,000 crore

Filmmakers to get access to single window clearance for ease of shooting films

National Kamdhenu Ayog for cows. Rs 750 crore for National Gokul Mission

Capital support of Rs.64,587 crore for railways.

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